“It is forbidden to distribute, receive Holy Communion in the hands”: Ugandan Archbishop

Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, Uganda.

In what could be considered a controversial move, the Archbishop of Kampala in Uganda, has issued a decree forbidding the reception of Holy Communion in the hand in order to promote reverence for the Eucharist and to stop “abuses.

“Henceforth, it is forbidden to distribute or to receive Holy Communion in the hands,” reads in part a statement issued by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga availed to ACI Africa.

In the decree titled “Proper Celebration of the Eucharist in Kampala Archdiocese,” the Local Ordinary said he was issuing the directives “relying on the Liturgical and canonical norms of the Church Universal and basing on the vigilance which is required of him by law to fend off abuses in the liturgical life of the Church.”

Explaining the reasons that sanctioned the decree, Archbishop Lwanga said, “Due to many reported instances of dishonoring the Eucharist that have been associated with reception of the Eucharist in the hands, it is fitting to return to the more reverent method of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue.”

The Archbishop’s decree follows a high level meeting with the clergy and senior executive committees of parishes at Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Saturday, February 1, 2020.


Archbishop Lwanga’s decision only applies to Parishes in the Archdiocese of Kampala for in all other 14 dioceses, receiving Holy Communion in the hand is permitted.

It is also unclear the particular abuses mentioned by the Archbishop in relation to this practice that is quite widespread in Africa.

Although Archbishop Lwanga has a right to issue decrees, multiple sources in Uganda are questioning the reason for his decision to "go alone" without discussing the problem with fellow bishops of the Uganda Episcopal Conference.

According to ACI Africa’s sister agency CNA,  “In 1969, five years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued an instruction which expressed that Blessed Paul VI had determined not to change the means of administering Holy Communion to the faithful – i.e., to retain distribution of the Host on the tongue to those kneeling, rather than allowing communicants to receive the Host in their hands.”

CNA further states that, “The instruction, Memoriale Domini, indicated that where distribution of Communion in the hand already prevailed, episcopal conferences should weigh carefully whether special circumstances warranted reception of the Eucharist in the hand, avoiding disrespect or false opinions regarding the Eucharist and ill effects that might follow, and if a two-thirds voting majority decided in the affirmative, such a decision could be affirmed by the Holy See.”

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On its part PrayTell referencing two statements from the Congregation for Divine Worship issued under Pope Paul VI  revealed “The Holy See has made it abundantly clear that both manners of reception of Communion – on the tongue and in the hand – are permitted, that Communion should be received reverently, and that the manner of reception should not become an occasion of division in the church.”

According to PrayTell, in 1969, “permission for administering Communion in the hand was granted by the Holy See to some countries and regions under Pope Paul VI.”

Archbishop Lwanga’s controversial decision, has taken center stage on social media with various Ugandans backing the move, insisting that it is line with the doctrine of the Catholic faith.

“St Thomas Aquinas, one of the best theologians and medieval philosophers, in his teaching about the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, emphasized receiving our Lord on the tongue because, ‘Out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated,” Henry Stanley Tamale stated in a facebook post.

“He is absolutely right. That is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which should be received when you are very clean in mind, heart, soul. Put your tongue brethren,” Sophie Sing Noted.


Archbishop Lwanga’s decree further guides Catholics who have not been designated as an extraordinary minister of the communion to stop distributing it during Eucharistic celebrations.

The Archbishop explained, “before distributing Holy Communion, the extraordinary Minister must first receive Holy Communion from the Ordinary Minister.”

The directive also reminds the faithful living in illicit marital cohabitation and those who persist in any grave and manifest sin, not to receive Holy Communion.

The Ugandan Prelate further warned the priests and deacons who are not properly vested in the prescribed liturgical vestments to neither concelebrate nor assist the distribution of Holy Communion.  

According to the decree “Such a priest should neither concelebrate nor assist at the distribution of Holy Communion. He should also not sit in the sanctuary but rather take his seat among the faithful in the congregation.”

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In a similar development, the Archbishop has also banned the celebration of the Eucharist in a “non-sacred place unless grave necessity requires otherwise (Can. 932 91).”

“Following this canonical norm, the Eucharist is henceforth to be celebrated in designated sacred places since there is an adequate number of such designated places in the Archdiocese for that purpose,” the Prelate insisted in the statement.

Meantime priests of the Archdiocese of Kampala will now only serve a maximum of 6 years in a single station.

The Director of the Social Communications Department of Kampala Archdiocese, Fr Joseph Mukasa Nkeera in an interview with Daily Monitor revealed “every priest will be required to serve for three years in any given parish, school or area. From there, his contract can then be renewed for another three years, after which he will be transferred to another area.”

“No priest will be allowed to serve beyond two three-year tenures at a parish,” Fr Nkeera added.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.